The Soul of the City

Valeria Paz Garcia

Lotería of the Street Vendors of Mexico City


Mexico City has 21 million residents and is one of North America’s most vibrant, vast, and populated cities. Despite all these disparities, street vendors unite Chilangos (Mexico City inhabitants) from all corners of this culturally and socioeconomically diverse town. They are vital to the city’s cultural identity, an essential part of Chilangos daily lives, and a central part of the city’s soul.

Street vendors are the bridge that connects the diverse population of the city. They are the spandrels of connections and occupy every unused space in the crowded city. Individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their socio-economic or cultural background, participate in this economy; either eating their delicious food, purchasing flowers or getting their shoes polished.

Given their central and indispensable role in the city, I made an ethnography of Mexico City’s multiple street vendors. I chose the medium of “Loteria,” also known as Mexican bingo, to make the project more interactive, immersive, and fun. Loteria is a card game similar to bingo; instead of numbers, letters, and balls, the game has cards with illustrations. The loteria is also an important cultural identity of Mexico: the Spanish brought the game during colonization in the Sixteenth century, and only the high society played the game. However, during the Independence War (1810-1821), the game was adapted and popularized by the soldiers. It became a game by the people for the people, just like how street vendors are for the people by the people.

Why Street Vendors?

Street vendors were an important part of my life; in a way, they raised me. I grew up surrounded by them, and I was a regular customer. In high school, I would buy either breakfast (tamales & tlacoyos), lunch (tacos al pastor & tortas), snacks (vasos de fruta, papas preparadas, pan dulce), and drinks (agua de limón con chia, cafe, agua de jamaica) between classes or exams as a way to get through the day. The food is not only cheap but also delicious; one can even create a friendship and precious relationships with the vendors. 

Therefore, after four years away from my beloved hometown, Mexico City, I am dedicating my capstone project to celebrating, sharing, and honoring a part of its culture. Thus, I have developed and designed an ethnography of street vendors in my hometown. Through the medium of Mexican game cards, my project seeks to raise awareness, curiosity, and appreciation for street culture, its inhabitants, and visitors. I hope you, as a participant in this game, get a “taste” of the Chilango experience and, most importantly, yell “LOTERIA”!

I illustrated 28 different of the most famous type of vendors one can see on a daily basis. The illustrations were made in a special way so they could be riso printed.

Risograph Printing

I printed the cards with a risograph. They were printed using 4 different inks: aqua, sunflower, red, and black. Each illustration took up to 12 hours to do since they had to be done with only 4 colors, and to mix the colors, I had to play with the opacities.

Testing the Game

I reunited some of the ECU community to test the game. The participants were from different nationalities since I wanted to learn what other cultures would think about the street vendor culture. I presented what each vendor sold, and then we played the game. We all had a fun time, and I am thankful for everyone who came and participated.

The workshop informed the rest of the project. From there, I edited the game and designed the packaging.

Final Outcome

Thank You!

I want to thank my family and friends for supporting me through all these years.

I also want to thank my professors and Kathleen Jacques; without them, this project would not have been executed.

Quiero agradecer mi ciudad tan bonita y todos los vendedores ambulantes que me han inspirado durante los años.

Valeria Paz Garcia

Valeria is a communication designer from Mexico City. She is passionate about sharing her culture through multidisciplinary design practices. Her practice utilizes vibrant colours and intricate illustration to share the visual culture of Mexico City. She enjoys designing packaging and layout design and brings.

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